Dublin, Smithfield. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

Moving to Ireland in 2008 was my escape from a Fight Club house. I left a place that had no shower head or toilet seat, but was full of cockroaches. Every time it rained, water was dripping on the floor in my room. And it rained a lot in January in Doncaster. My Latvian housemate was a single mother in her late 40s who left her 12-year old son in Latvia and moved to England for work on the factory. At night she cried and screamed at her Pakistani boyfriend and I was sticking fingers in my ears to reduce the noise. In the beginning of the 00s many Latvians started rapidly leaving the country in hope for a better life. So I left too.

Back in winter 2008 Doncaster was packed with immigrants queueing in agencies for any kind of work. I couldn’t find a job even on a factory and therefore tried contacting somebody I knew in Ireland. He was a Latvian guy I met once in Riga and hoped he could help. He was delighted to hear from me and immediately proposed to move over to his small Irish town. I had no clue how small it was.

Ireland, Nenagh 2008

I saw the capital only for a few hours. Dublin felt like a big village. After arriving to the city centre we hopped on dart and went to Bray for a day. When we came there it was already dark. And it turned out that all hostels and B&Bs were full. All what was left was a just married hotel. That night I had my first ever Guinness. I loved it. It got me drunk pretty quickly, but sleeping in one bed with a guy I met only once was still pretty awkward. He told me he moved to Ireland with his girlfriend, but one morning he woke up and she was gone, with all her stuff. He tried calling her, but she cut all ties. He was heartbroken. And there was I. As naive as I was I tried to explain him that I came for work and nothing else. We then took a bus to Nenagh.

The two months spent in Nenagh were unbearable. I was born in a small town and always wanted to escape to a bigger city. But from a small town I moved to even smaller town. Green landscapes and sheep oppressed me. I never was a country girl. When I was a child mum used to send me to a country side to help grandparents plucking weeds and collecting Colorado beetles. And all that time I felt like a futurist who needed noise and speed.

Straight to the point, my new friend turned out to be a skinhead. Our landlord was an Irish man who also hated everyone, but white. He lived in the same house as us and I remember the living room that was stained in his dog’s blood, canine estrus. We had a small shop in our house and every noon school kids would come to buy snacks. The landlord was kind to me and occasionally gave me free tuna.

Within a week’s time I found a job as a salesperson in a photography shop. On my way to work almost everyone greeted me, which at first was very unusual. Tipperary accent was really hard to understand and I avoided customers as much as I could. Occasionally my neo-nazi friend would meet me after work and we would go to a pub. We always went to the same pub, and a 100-year-old deaf grandpa would greet us and invite for a pint. The neo-nazi was my only “friend”. I was trapped and disgusted. I brought with me two books, a CD player with a few self recorded CDs, and a DVD with “Stalker” by Tarkovsky and a live gig from Atari Teenage Riot. No other entertainment media was available to me. Just a few people in town had the Internet at home. I had to go to the Internet cafe during my lunch break or ask my neo-nazi friend to use a Windows 2000 pc in his room. Calling was expensive. So I was literally cut off from my friends and relatives. This being said, I was drunk most of the nights, and my neo-nazi friend used that condition for sexual harassment.

ireland sheep avanthard

Ireland. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

Every day off I was devastated, because there was nothing to do. I cooked like a housewife and silently hated it. The neo-nazi introduced me to a Moldavian guy, a friend of his. He was our age, single. One day the Moldavian ‘friend’ started walking in the garden under my windows looking out for me. I was surrounded by dejected wolves. In fact all three of us were dregs of society. Miserable and sad. I would hug the skinhead in front of the Moldavian guy to avoid him hitting on me. The skinhead was paid every Friday and every Friday he’d spend all his money on alcohol and drugs. I did not participate in his Friday wanderings as I often worked on Saturdays. But my room had no lock and he often came during the night and crawled under my blanket. It was a trap of being disgusted and feeling lonely at the same time. But returning home was to accept failure. And I couldn’t fail.

One day I smashed my CD player against the ceiling. Then, I decided to move to Copenhagen. I needed a quick change. I was in touch with a Dane on, he played in a band and I decided I needed some rock’n’roll. I was 23. The skinhead was furious that I decided to leave him, and forbid me to use his pc. But at that point I was already counting days. I left Nenagh 24h before my flight to Denmark and spent 12h in the airport with a fever. Just a day before I managed to return all my emergency tax. I couldn’t be any happier. That day I promised myself to never ever come back to Ireland as it felt like escaping hell. The morning I landed in Copenhagen, the ground was symbolically covered in snow. I called my mum and told her I was in heaven.


Copenhagen. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.


Copenhagen. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

Ireland, Dublin 2015

It wasn’t easy to come back. But I couldn’t reject Google‘s offer. Green fields, sheep, two taps and Guinness. It felt very strange and lonesome in the beginning and everything reminded me of Nenagh. Dublin still felt like a big village soaked in rain. I went for a walk, but wasn’t really interested in knowing the city. Google felt like a city inside city, I enjoyed going to work more than spending a weekend with myself. If you find yourself bored, you are a bad company. I was a bad company.


After a couple of months I finally met people I could relate to. And I remembered the words someone told me in Berlin before I left for good:“There is no city like Berlin, but the right people will always find the right people, and you’ll have fun wherever you go.” Berlin wasn’t great for friendships, people changed too quickly, they transitioned between cities. These were disposable friends for 36 frames.

All of a sudden I understood why I came back. The people I met let me see and feel the country, its history, politics, cultural values, humour, religious struggles, homelessness crisis. Southside, Northside. All of a sudden I understood that it’s impossible to love the city or country without knowing it. And Google is not Dublin for feck’s sake!

I went to an experimental three-hour long performance dedicated to I.R.A. I took a 1916 bus tour, which made me watch ‘In the name of the father’, ‘Michael Collins’, ’66 Days’, andThe Wind That Shakes the Barley’. These stories naturally led me to Kilmainham Jail and to Northern Ireland, Belfast and Derry.

During my first Dublin Fringe I went to Panti Bliss show ‘Riot’, where I saw the savage Lords of Strut and extremely talented Emmet Kirwan. Around the same time my friends also introduced me to Limerick’s guys The Rubberbandits – a satirical and political band with SPAR bags on their heads. These are all very important voices of contemporary Ireland, the voices I finally heard.

In 2016 I went to my first March for Choice to support REPEAL the 8th project. I had goose pimples seeing thousands of people of all age, gender and religious affiliation. We all came to the streets to say that women deserve the choice!

In no time I became a part of this country.

repeal avant hard

Repeal. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

celtic crosses avant hard

Glasnevin Cemetery. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

kilmainham jail avant hard

Kilmainham Jail. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

Raving Dublin

Apart from history and culture, I was also eager to discover the clubbing scene. Of course. The first club I ever went to was Hangar, located on the backstreet full of piss and trash. A few months later I ended up there again, at a drag queen show. They also had a regular Church dance night with a big white cross on stage. The crowd in Hangar is usually very young, drugged out, but harmless. It took me months to reach District 8, that reminded me of Urban Spree (Berlin venue) purely because of the warehouse type of location sprayed in graffiti. It took me ten months to reach Yamamori Tengu, which is a club hidden behind the sushi restaurant. And it’s gas. Izakaya Tengu has two floors and most of the walls are decorated with Japanese paraphernalia. Izakaya’s crowd does differ from all the other techno clubs here. In comparison to District 8 or Button Factory, where the crowd is totally zombified, Izakaya’s audience is often a bit older, more relaxed, which does not mean less drugs, just more control. Another dope place is Turk’s head. It is preposterous inside out. There is a big ugly metallic staircase in the middle of the dance floor, huge wooden DIY speakers on the ground looking like an installation and truly dedicated crowd – just deadly! The latest addition to the rave parties is Index club. The opening party was very promising, but the second time I returned there it was a ‘no-no’, the place was empty, and the staff were kicking me out. However, they are still getting big names on the list. Rødhåd is playing November 20.

Earlier this year I also ended up in an underground space called Delight Studios, that seem to have regular electronic nights and exhibitions. A truly great venue in Dublin north, very spacious and creative. In spring 2017 The Tara Building, the co-working space, also opened its doors to Dublin creatives. The Tara is Dublin’s modern hope. They seem to bring meaningful artists and actively support local scene.

There is a very special bar-venue opposite Vicar StreetThe Thomas House. I have been there only a few times, but it’s wild! I came once and they had a DJ night, where a large digital clock would run for 15 minutes and then the next DJ would jump on stage with a completely different set. This is definitely a place to come back to!

Last but not least, Dublin has a solid psytrance scene. The trance family was a true discovery for me. These people create safe, but wild atmosphere. There are two psytrance events this week: Goa Forest and Magic Season, which will be a great addition to the Ayahuasca Conference on Thursday evening.

Hangar Dublin by avant hard

Hangar, Dublin. Drag queen show. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

rubberbandits avant hard

Rubberbandits 2017. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

goa trans dublin avant hard

Goa Trans 1200 Micrograms. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

the thomas house avant hard

The Thomas House. All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

So, what’s the craic?

Without the right people, I wouldn’t have been able to fall in love with the country. In 2008 Ireland felt like the worst place, but ten years later I understood that this is the happiest I ever been. And I am delighted to say I feel like at home now. And I am sincerely thankful to my Dublin friends for all the love, support, knowledge and inspiration. I treasure you ❤

It took my a year to write this blog post.

avanthard berliners

All rights reserved by Katya Avant-Hard.

My blog has been dead for almost two years now. But surprisingly it still daily gets a fair amount of clicks; some visitors even leave comments. Have you looked at the date? Four years later the post on Katerholzig is still on the first page on Google search. I guess Berlin hasn’t changed much, has it?

I actually made several blog post drafts, but never managed to write an ending. Some stories will never be told.

Yesterday I counted all the jobs I ever did in Berlin within 3,5 years of living there. So now I sit next to myself circa 2011 and ask:“What would you wanna do in five years time?” “Well, make videos”, I naively reply. I came to Berlin to work in video industry, but ended up doing 19 different jobs. Too bad or not too bad? I still shoot videos, but for Instagram, not money. The work experience I got in Berlin was tremendously diverse, but all the jobs were so badly paid that to visit my family in Riga I had to take a 24h low-cost bus.

One day I will publish a book called “Berlin cleaning diary: how I wiped cocaine traces for €25/h”, but until then you can enjoy my blog archives.

Here is a list of all paid jobs I ever did in Berlin:

  1. Tour guide
  2. Translator
  3. Paleo restaurant chef assistant
  4. Jazz band promoter
  5. Video editor
  6. Film producer
  7. Graphic designer
  8. Journalist
  9. Junior animator
  10. Photographer
  11. Blogger
  12. Online marking intern
  13. Public speaker, leading the initiative Berlin Internship Justice
  14. Event Management
  15. Extra in feature films and TV series
  16. Photo model
  17. Actress
  18. Cleaner
  19. Professional bottle collector

How am I supposed to ever fit all this in my two-page CV? I might just change my LinkedIn title to Senior Survivor Strategist. Triple S, yo!

Dublin, view from Google European HQ. All rights reserved by Avant-Hard.

Dublin, a view from Google European HQ. All rights reserved by Avant-Hard.

What happend to Avant-Hard after she left Berlin? How did it feel to leave the hip and jive dark-dancing mass? Where did Avant-Hard go and what does she drink now if not Club Mate?

The life after Berlin brought a massive change. If there is no change, you’re not living. In Berlin I was comfortable living the uncomfortable life. I was cleaning apartments while photographing festivals, writing blogs, editing videos, managing social media, organising events, fighting for the intern rights, doing city tours and graphic design for free or very low pay and dancing at night. It is hard to break the routine that has been working for years. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. People often fear the change. And it’s totally human. And the older you become the harder it is to make that step. But I got tired, more than that, I was emotionally exhausted and it was time to face the challenge.

Polishing toilets, thinking golden statue

It’s been a year since I left Berlin and it’s been a year since I haven’t written a blog post. Just a year ago I was polishing toilets imagining they were golden statues. I’d pay with a €100 note in McDonalds for a €2 ice cream, saying “sorry, I don’t have smaller”. In reality we just had to break it for two of us to get paid for Cinderella job. I was rejected by the Copenhagen University where I wanted to do multi-media MA, I was rejected by hundreds of small and big companies across Europe for over a year. Rejections were like arrows in my back, making me bleed stronger and stronger.. The three diplomas I had been keeping so proudly in the folder, lost the importance and I felt like I could flush them down that toilet I’ve just polished. In the end I was not only exhausted, I became apathetic and pessimistic and I wanted to puke in that toilet. I secretly dreamed about life grabbing my hair and smashing my face against an absolute fortune.

Google bridge

Dublin, Google bridge. All rights reserved by Avant-Hard.

Dublin, the space office.

Dublin, the space office. All rights reserved by Avant-Hard.

google xmas

Google. Xmas orchestra. All right reserved by Avant-Hard.

Latvia – the home I never loved

After seven years of living abroad I left 24h party people Berlin and I moved back to mum’s place. It felt miserable.

It was easy to get a job in Latvia because Latvian marked lacked specialists. I went to job interviews at well established organisations without preparation and almost always got the job. I became picky and would choose between the companies. I started working for one of the largest fashion labels in Latvia – QooQoo, organised a Twin Peaks party, did graphic design and social media work remotely for a startup in Vienna and joined an ambitious marketing agency as a social media manager. But I still was not happy, I did not believe in my future in Latvia.

I never felt the connection with Latvia. I could never deal with the extreme level of nationalism, racism, homophobia, lack of tolerance, Scandinavian prices and miserable €370 minimum wage, broken health and pension schemes.

This half a year in Latvia felt  like sitting in a dark box hoping somebody will open the lead. In April all of a sudden, I got a call from Dublin and it changed everything. I packed my bags and two weeks later I left the country. After being rejected by hundreds of companies across Europe, I was the perfect fit for the #1 rated company in the world – Google.

Though honestly speaking, I feared this was a scam until I entered the European headquarters. I mean, who needs an avant-garde bottle collector/Silicon Allee toilet polisher?

Bear foot and water guns

I did not expect Google to ever select me – I was too imperfect for everybody. But what other companies saw as a disadvantage in my portfolio, Google saw as an advantage. I had the warmest welcome of my life. It felt like they waited for me their whole life. My desk looked like a birthday party – full of balloons, candies, and funny memes. They pranked me so hard too and we all laughed for like a week after. Me being an underground Berlin artist that had holes in the pockets, thought that a big corporate company like Google was meant to be a boring suit-wearing routine. No, I never read any articles about Google offices and I haven’t watched “The internship”.

And so I entered this space that looks like a playground dream of my childhood with all the toys I never had. And I question myself – who are these people wearing no shoes, shooting water guns, pranking each other, hugging after long holidays and just having a blast? These absolute strangers made me feel so special, literally that there is no better person on the planet for this position than me. They opened the doors of their homes to me, the person they have just met. And after my ego was flashed down the toilet that I polished so diligently, I suddenly felt like I am standing on the top of the Everest chewing the Extra gum. Damn cool Everest.

google games

My team is like no other team I ever worked with. We are all very different. Different cultural backgrounds, different personalities, different political views and life values. If we were animals, we all would be different species. Like a mix of a dinosaur, a panther, a bull, an elephant, a dolphin, an owl, and a crocodile – basically the whole jungle. We are just a perfectly combined team. We are highly respective, supportive, tolerant and incredibly fun. My team are a bunch of supermen.

Healthy Environment

What blew my mind and still is blowing daily – is how much Google takes care of their employees. I could never even dream of meditating at work – well apart from sitting at my desk with the eyes closed and colleagues asking you if I was okey. Google offers a range of options how to distress, how to maintain the work balance and not overwork. The company kindly encourages you to do sports. The gym provided to anyone at any time of week has also free of charge yoga and pilates classes. Or during the lunch you can go for a swim, get a massage done or simply have a nap in the isolated char. If hitting the drums is something that will help you to relax, you can go to the music room or play computer games, play ping pong or pool and get totally detached from work for half an hour. My manager got us legos and a puzzle for this New Year’s, and as an adult you do realize that sometimes it’s the best way to have a break from work. There are special meditation sessions and a D vitamin room for the wellbeing too. There are also doctors on campus, should you need them. Google gives various relaxation options for everyone to choose what works best.

The quote below is complete opposite to the Google environment, because all of a sudden you realise that Google is your friend or as I jokingly say – Papa Google, since he cooks for me three times a day. Similarly to Scandinavian business model, Google makes sure you are happy at work and have enough time for private life. The company encourages to not stay after 6pm and also kindly reminds you of your holiday days for bigger productivity. Google motivates by providing a happy relaxed environment in all offices across the globe. There are also special perks an employee gets for outstanding performance and being Googley.

work quote

Possibilities at Google

Another thing that does not stop to amaze me is the possibilities of personal and career development. Google strives for innovation and initiative. And the sky is the limit. The projects that one can get involved in are endless. If you don’t have the skills, you can get them. Google gives the space for growth even outside of the contracted role.

For example, there is a peer-to-peer learning program where Googlers teach other Googlers on topics that can range from yoga to coding — and it’s all completely free!

Mayra Felix

In other words, Google does everything for you to be passionate about your job. This company created the atmosphere where you are self motivated to explore the limits and think outside of the box. You don’t need your manager to give you a project, you pick it yourself.

I Google, therefore I am

You never know where you will lose and where you will find. Google found me sitting in the puddle doing the math. I was trying to calculate my future, but since I was never good in maths Google said:”let’s do something different.” I have taken the role I never considered before. And to my big surprise I really enjoy it and not sure I’d go back to marketing. Google does not limit me to the title I was given, Google gives me the necessary space for being who I am. I left the puddle and the rain won’t stop me now.

And what happened to Berlin? Berlin is still there, dancing and making love to the strangers. I pass it by occasionally.  Berlin is the wild bird I never managed to get into to the cage.

Dinner in White. Flashmob. Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt

Dinner in White. Flashmob. Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt

Berlin was my home for 3,3 years. I came there July 2011 after graduation in England and was ready to start a new period of my life. I knew nothing or very little about Germany and Berlin in general, but I was tired of the UK and naively believed this was my chance to start a career.

A year before I moved to Berlin I visited a friend in Berlin. She lived on a vital full of bars, cafes and restaurants Falckensteinstr. and I fell in love with the city immediately. It felt both familiar and new at the same time. It felt like this is the city that never sleeps and this is what I need because I don’t wanna sleep.. I wanted to work hard 5 days a week in a media company and do my own video projects in the spare time. And so I started a German course on my 3rd year of studies, and a year later moved to the German capital with 50kg in my hands, paying a €300 big fine for the overweight in Luton Airport. Honestly, I did not know back then Berlin is such a popular city and that 95% of planes that land here bring whether expats full of hopes or party tourists who won’t even see Brandenburger Gate.

Kreuzberg remained my neighbourhood from the very first to the very last day, even though I moved several times like a proper Berliner, because if you haven’t changed at least three flats within the first half a year, then you are not in Berlin. A typical Berlin flat is located in an old building with wooden floors and a high ceiling, some of them still have coal heating and a stove that takes the 3rd of your 12 square meter room that costs you now €300. When I moved to Berlin, the Neukoelln boom has only started. While some only spoke about it, many others already were moving there, paying €200 for a 25 square meter room.

The first three things you have to get used to are: that Berlin drinkssmokes and parties a lot and everywhere; that friends you had yesterday, might be gone today because it’s a transit city and last, but not least that there is no work. Sitting in a park with a 0,70 cent bottle and a €2,90 kebab is comfortable and cheerful, smoking a joint is legal and relaxing. When there is a party – you don’t have to rush there, because: 1. everything in Berlin starts late 2. if you don’t go there, there are another 105 variants today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. With the friends situation I never figured out what to do – whether not to get attached to anyone and be just “whatever” or simply hope that I leave faster than my new friends.. Anyway, the reason why all the friends/expats/people are leaving is exactly work.

I did a 100 different jobs in Berlin. I worked for a paleo restaurant, film festivals, Berlin Fashion Week, creative agencies, model agencies, tourism agencies, startups, art and film projects, production companies, Rocket Internet + I did various freelance jobs and ran workshops on the internship economy. After a month I moved to Berlin I already had my collages presented at the public exhibition. Seems like a lot going on, but all that does not make you financially stable. There is no minimum wage in Germany (even though this shall change soon) and many places offer you black work, which means that no one pays the taxes, and you end up without a pension scheme and most importantly without a health insurance. Having no health insurance in Germany is a tragedy. Yes, you can come with an EU or whatever insurance from your home country, but it still will cost you money OR will cover only emergency. All in all you gotta love German bureaucracy in order to survive.

Berlin is definitely one of a kind. It’s a city of freedom. You can do here whatever you want. Participate in any kind of activities, climbing walls to check abandoned spaces, going to wild, experimental parties or riots, attending tantric or DMT gatherings, having a dinner with your own table on the underground station, traveling naked etc etc etc. See my The Very Berlin Moments blog post.  Whatever you want to try in your life, you can do it in Berlin and no one ever will ask you anything or give you a judgemental look, because here everything is normal or abnormal, but still acceptable. Berlin is a vegetarian city that stinks of urine, beer and weed. Berlin’s true face is “I work at the party”. Because most of the people work in the bars, cafes, galleries, tattoo salons, festivals, shared spaces etc. Startups work hard, but Friday afternoon you already see boxes of beers in the office. Fashion shops in the city centre open at 11am. And even big international companies will end up sniffing coke, because they are young, because the young rule the city. It’s like a big community and in the end of the day it’s just a big party where everybody knows each other. Not that it does not happen in London or other capitals, but here it’s more public and sexual. It’s more dirty by all the means, like New York in the 80s. Creativity for the creativity’s sake, not for the money. I am a freelancer, I pay my rent, but I can’t pay for anything else.

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Berlin is beautiful in it’s own ugly way. It’s grey on the outside, but it’s the most saturated on the inside. Walking the right streets and entering the right doors open up a completely different view on the city. Berlin is absolutely anti-romantic, rough, but very cosmopolitan. Berlin is the city where you can discover something new every day, I’ve gone to random stations and came across with mind-blowing things. Berlin is a cheap prostitute without a health insurance. And yet it is full of talented and amazing people, important and special places. Berlin is the city to love and hate. With all these wonderful opportunities, there is no industry here and respectively no money. Poor artists’ myth has died with the previous century. An artist is also a job not a style of living. 

Bossa Fakata in Berlin.

Bossa Fataka in Berlin.

There are now mainly three work options in Berlin:

  1. You run your own business, and you earn enough to live in prosperity.
  2. You are a freelancer, who is lucky to have clients who pay enough to live in prosperity.
  3. You do a simple job (example: bartender, sale’s person, call centre) and you are happy with €700 – €1000 a month, because you do not care about the career

All these options are a headache, because there is no money in the city and you are in a constant run for the client who pays. Berlin is NOT the city for those who want to build a career. To register a new company you need €1, to make sure your business gives an income, it has to be international. Same goes for the freelancing – locals won’t pay much for your most wonderful design; often they won’t pay at all. It’s a normal practice – work for nothing. Herz lV is not an option. Living on benefits is not an option, because to move out from this city was the option for me. Because working for free was not something I came for. The experience I gained in Berlin is unbelievable. Nowhere else in the world I would have had a chance to do what I did in Berlin. But you get tired from working for free, because working for free is volunteering.

It’s important to understand that there are job offers in Berlin, but mostly internships, badly paid or unpaid. I’ve gone to interviews to find out they have no money to pay. My friends had high positions, but their payment was delayed. I was also told stories when applying for a cafe job a boss would ask:”Do you want to get paid?” It is also important to understand that there is a high competition absolutely everywhere, especially because us Latvians, Polish, Romanians, Bulgarians etc. don’t want to stay in the home country. We increase the amount of applicants for a good position up to 300 and up. But if other cities have well paid options, Berlin mostly does not.. Even IT specialists are paid much less in Berlin than the rest of Germany.

Berlin is a city of change, Berlin won’t be poor forever. The business centres are being built, the clubs and graffiti being removed, even the Wall leftovers.. More than half of my friends have left Berlin, and a few are planning to move out soon. This blog post is also written for those who plan to move here. My advice is – know exactly what you want from the city. If it is just a year for the experience sake – it is a great place, if you think “career” and “family” – this is a sad place. Not being able to pay for the dentist is sad, not being able to fly for a holiday is sad. Berlin is sad during the day and fun during the night.

A few days before leaving for good I’ve filmed the places I have been cycling through on a regular basis. This is Berlin I will remember.

Goodbye to Berlin from Katja Avant-Hard on Vimeo.

Falckensteinstr. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard.

Falckensteinstr. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard.

1. To love dogs. I used to have panic attacks, when I saw a dog, and I never wanted to have one myself. Berlin changed it all. From big to small Berlin dogs never bark, never jump, don’t wear a leash and can sit outside the shop without making a move or noise what-so-ever. See for yourself here.

2. That the artist has to know how to sell. You are the product, the marketer and the seller all in one.

3. To love beer. Before I moved to Germany, I strongly disliked this type of alcohol. Now I can tell the tourists what is what. I also learned that your bathtub is your beer fridge for the house party. And if you haven’t drank beer in -10, you have not been to Berlin.

4. That Berlin has the best Zoo in Europe. When you’re sad, I strongly recommend visiting this place, where you can easily spend the whole day.

5. To make the bridge bounce while dancing on it (Modersohnbrücke in particular). Get DJs, get a good stereo system, invite people, make a party, let the heavy cars still go over the bridge, dance like none is watching, make it bounce, feel it!….

6. That unfortunately yoga and being vegan can be fashionable. After several years of living here I got a flock of sheep impression. Because people without reason are trying to do both and are not realising, that it does not suit every body, and both vegan lifestyle and yoga can do harm. Yet on every corner in Berlin you now will find a yoga center and even though Germany has really good meat and lots of farms and farm product delivery options, Berliners are trying to avoid iron and take B12 Vitamin. Dear readers, everything should be in balance. I have vegetarian/vegan friends and I respect them. Find your reason first, and make sure your body agrees with it.

7. To multi task. German classes in the morning, work until 20:00, meeting friends in the evening + contributing to 10 other projects at the same time.

8. To cook crackers and bread without flour and eggs. I worked for a paleo restaurant, where I learned the secret.

9. To cycle in Neukoelln. Neukoelln inhabitants have a tendency to stop their cars randomly in the middle of the street, they also ignore traffic lights which turns a cyclist experience into survival.

10. To travel with soup pots and baking dishes on the underground. Shared food parties is a normal practice here. Great and sweet idea too!

Kottbusser Tor. A part of a university project.  Don't have the name of the author, if you know please drop me a line.

11. That the trash bags can cost €3,50 when they’re bio  supposte to normal ones for €0,59. Recycling is a big thing here.

12. What means an amazingly relaxed big city life. It’s the capital, but there is no stress and no rush. No rush in the morning, no rush in the evening, no rush for the party…

“There just isn’t really this fear of missing out,” Mr. DeNorch said. “You just feel like wherever you’re at is fine. You’re just having a good time.” … “When you want to go out to the club, you grab a beer on the way,” he said. “You can buy some weed on the street so you can smoke a joint if you want to. There’s all these little things you can do here that you can’t do there to get you in the mood.”

“In New York specifically, there’s a huge amount of stress about what you’re doing tonight and where you’re going to be in the city and who you’re going to be with,” said Mr. Ladner, a founder of the Janus party. 

Read full Article on NYTIMES

13. A feeling of blended genders. Berlin is the city where I’ve received the least amount of compliments. In here you forget that you’re a woman, as it does not matter how attractive you look, people seem to not pay any attention, because they like it all: any size and any gender. There are both negative and positive aspects of this, yet this is typical Berlin.

14. That Berlin is a temporary stop for many of us.

“It’s like living in an airport here in Berlin”
Ben Sömethingorother

15. That work and parties in Berlin are like black and white. “…half of all Berliners make under 1500 EUR a month, and a third less than 1000 EUR” (source)

Berlin is the poorest German city, with highest unemployment rate and half of the expats are receiving the job-centre benefits. Berlin is the place where jobs don’t last long. And it’s also normal if you have not been paid up to a year, but then you might want to go to the lawyer. On what really is happening in Berlin and the city’s mayor you can read here.

As about the parties – they are always here: cheap or absolutely free, 7 days a week. On a hot summer weekday all the parks in Berlin are full with jobless people or people who do odd jobs. Berlin parties more than it works. If you are considering Berlin as your next career destination, please think of Hamburg first.

16. That Berlin’s tech startup scene is far behind the Silicon Valley, and that we Europeans are modest in comparison to brave Americans, who can sell an old three-leg-chair without blinking as a brand new one.

17. That bio products in Germany are at least 95% bio, full stop. My research on eco label in Germany you can read here.

18. That a Berliner is a traditional North German pastry similar to a doughnut with no central hole made from sweet yeast dough fried in fat or oil, with a marmalade or jam filling and usually icing, powdered sugar or conventional sugar on top. 
John F. Kennedy‘s words “Ich bin ein Berliner” are standard German for “I am a Berliner”. Mentioned in Len Deighton‘s 1983 novel Berlin Game, an urban legend has it that due to his use of the indefinite article ein, Berliner is translated as “jelly doughnut”, and that the population of Berlin was amused by the supposed mistake. The normal convention when stating a nationality or, for instance, saying one is from Berlin, would be to leave out the indefinite article ein. Throughout the 1980s, the legend was spread even by quality papers and reputable media like The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC or NBC.

A berliner in a box by Dorit Bialer

19. I also learned that giving a birth and remaining skinny is a normal practice in Berlin. The answer to “how?” I still haven’t found.

20. That it is okey to be explicit, naked and have sex in public spaces. Freedom to everyone. Just be yourself. No judgement, no fashion, no boundaries. From train station to night life. Berlin is possibly the most sexually open city on earth, that also makes a stable classical relationship almost impossible. Berlin greets open relationships, swingers, gay/lesbian/transexual, BDSM and other experimental loving methods.

“Ask any straight woman over 30 and she’ll tell you that the odds of finding a committed man in this city are about as high as unearthing the Holy Grail. Is there any hope for the single Berlin female?”

– See more at:

“Men are like toilets. They’re always occupied, and when they’re not – they’re full of shit. Well, welcome to Berlin!”

                                                                                                                           – Emilie

P.O.P Berlin

P.O.P Berlin

Clarchens Ball House Berlin. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House Berlin. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Exploring Berlin has been truly exciting for all three years. Secret venues, old theatres at midnight, weird parks, abandoned spy stations, life under the ground, inspiring personalities were found and met within this time, but only three summers later I’ve visited Clärchens Ballhaus. Built in 1895, the once-grand building has been through a lot. On September 13th 1913 Fritz Bühler opened the dance hall „Bühlers Ballhaus“
(Bühler’s Ballroom) in the back of Auguststrasse 24/25, which now ended up in the touristic center full of stylish onlookers and happy locals. It became known as Clärchens Ballhaus after Bühler was killed in WWI and his widow, Clara, took over the business.

During the peak, there were some 900 dancing establishments inBerlin, then already known for its nightlife, though just a few have survived. With such fierce competition, Clärchen’s dance hall on Auguststrasse in the city center had to find creative ways to attract customers. After the war ended in 1918, “Aunt Clärchen”, as many called her, held events for widows, who danced with each other because men were scarce. Meanwhile, the opulent upstairs ballroom was rented out for outlawed sword fights that often left the floor covered in blood.

Now the place is still holding the old dancing like: swing, cha-cha-cha, tango etc. And if you’ve never done it before, they will teach you. Ground floor has a bar and a kitchen, the lush gardens are buzzing with people sitting among various bushes and grape trees. Regular concerts and dancing make it the Ball House for what it stands. The famous Mirror Room can be rented for private events, and it’s probably the most impressive open space in the entire building. Quentin Tarantino used Clärchens as a location for his film Inglorious Bastards.

Lona Jakob is the oldest Ball House visitor, informed Spiegel in 2013. At a spry 91 years old, she is the oldest regular guest at Clärchens Ballhaus. It’s where the former ballerina met her late husband in the 1940s, and where she returned late in life after his death to rediscover her love of dancing. Now, she dresses up in sequins and heels (despite breaking her leg not long ago) to come dancing here with friends and her daughter every Sunday. And now, as then, she always waits to be asked to dance.

There are tons of stories in the walls of these building, most of them we will never know, but we can feel the spirit and enjoy it until it lasts. Breath it in.

If you want to have a coffee with me there, feel free to drop a line.

The Mirror Room. Image taken from:

Image taken from:

Clarchens Ball House

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard


Clarchens Ballhaus in 1920s.

Twin Peaks.

After 25 years from the last episode of Twin Peaks, the spirit still lives and the fan base is still growing. These Lynchian places where are they?

There are several Twin Peaks related bars in the World. There is The Black Lodge in Bulgaria, which is more for metal heads; there is The Black Lodge in Vancouverwith impressive well thought through design, there is Black Bear Lodge bar in Brisbane, Australia, “where stag heads, fir trees and Johnny Cash rule, the red velvet curtained stage still provides the back drop and ‘a cast of Blue Velvet characters hang out.” And there is a restaurant/sports bar chain called Twin Peaks  in DallasTexas, which did not impress me at all.

Inspired by the deeply strange Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive, the film director himself has opened a nightclub in the French capital. Everything from the toilet bowls – black on black – to the saltiness of the nuts on the bar was decided on by the master himself. He even created the 1950s-inspired furniture, the chairs designed to “induce and sustain a specific state of alertness and openness to the unknown”. (the Guardian) And here you can still smoke inside; and of course there is a small Blue Velvet stage.

Silencio. David Lynch club. Paris. Photo: Copyright Alexandre Guirkinger | Silencio

Silencio. Image taken from

Yet, there is another Lynnchian place on earth, and it’s in Berlin. It’s been here for a while, but it has just relocated (well a few months ago) to Kreuzkölln. It is also called The Black Lodge, and we are totally ok with it. The place is nicely hidden on Sanderstrasse 6, and there is no indication that this is the Twin Peaks bar; because the old huge signboard says something unrelated and the windows are masked. The first room is completely black except for the ceiling and radiators; it is also a bar which is pretty ritzy. On the walls there are two gold framed mirrors and the white candles on tables, typical. The bar has a great selection of strong dutch beers and a mix between cocktails and long drinks. The prices are standard. The 2nd room is more exciting if you want to get the real feel of the Black Lodge, as it has red heavy curtains and the stripy floor; however it is very narrow, suppose to the real spacious room in the TV series. The tables are tiny and you sit along the wall. There is a hidden door which leads you to the restrooms and.. yet another room, which is totally bizarre because it’s a smoking area and it looks like a typical Berlin bar, grey ragged walls authentic furniture, all in all totally not fitting the mood of the previous two rooms. I’d would paint it black and put an owl there or at least a framed Laura Palmer photo, like Madame Claude did. If there was no 2nd room, you’d never get a Twin Peaks feeling, other than that it’s a lovely stylish bar, which gets 4 stars from me, and we’ll ignore that 3rd room.

P.S. They make fantastic event posters; check their Facebook page.

The Black Lodge. Vancouver.


Pink Flamingos, 1972.

As epic as it can get, the Pope of Trash is in town!

“In the 60s the bad reviews helped me, but that wouldn’t happen today. Now all film critics are hip; there are no square film critics anymore…or at least very few.”

John Waters

Growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s, John Waters was not like other children; he was obsessed by violence and gore, both real and on the screen. With his weird counter-culture friends as his cast, he began making silent 8mm and 16mm films in the mid-’60s; he screened these in rented Baltimore church halls to underground audiences drawn by word of mouth and street leafleting campaigns.

By the early 1970s he was making features, which he managed to get shown in midnight screenings in art cinemas by sheer perseverance. Success came when Pink Flamingos (1972) – a deliberate exercise in ultra-bad taste – took off in 1973, helped no doubt by lead actor Divine‘s infamous dog-crap eating scene. (

First time in Germany!

Prices: from 30,60 €

When: Sun, 09.02.2014, 20:00 clock
Tickets: Order by phone

Berlin, Kreuzberg. Image taken from:

I’ve been in Berlin long enough to explore most of the search engines and now I am able to tell which are worth spending your time on. I ignore Craigslist in 99 cases out 100. I found my 1st job there, which lasted only 2 months, and never ever found anything decent again. Most of the time you do not even get a reply, because of the extreme expat overload.

After 2,5 years my search expanded up to 10-15 pages, which I will happily share with you. While to find a regular, 40h arts/culture related job with a contract in Berlin is almost impossible (especially if you’re just like me B2, or around that level); I still managed to get some really nice projects. And I am talking here about the jobs where you come with a certain level of professionalism and competence, I’d like to leave behind jobs like waitressing and bar tending; those you find just by popping in every bar/cafe you like and leaving your CV.

Job hierarchy. Image taken from:

Job hierarchy. Image taken from:

My first advice, use LinkedIn! Especially if you’re an IT specialist/ business expert/graduate. (for English speakers) (a mix of jobs) (tech jobs) (jobs at startups, a great a list!) (jobs at startups) (jobs at startups) (jobs at startups) (a mix of creative jobs) (a mix of jobs) (a mix of jobs) (create your work portfolio and let the employers find you! At first I found this as a really great alternative to all the boring online application websites; they would connect you to all sort of interesting employers; which ask you random, but work related questions online, and depending on your answers could schedule an interview or just add you to their archive of “good candidates”. I was extremely excited about this, because I’ve probably filled in at least a thousand work applications and wrote a bit less than that cover letters in my life; and here you did not need ANY of this. Oh, what a relief!  And the most importantly I got job interviews!

Later they have changed their policy, to exactly what I said above “create your work portfolio and let the employers find you” – does not work. The workers of Somewhere try really hard to show their interest in you, yet NO real employers approach you. But I keep on returning to this page time to time, in case there is a good change. They’re young and growing, and they will see themselves eventually what really works for the job seekers, as employers won’t come to you, it’s THEIR time, you have to come to THEM. (A very useful source for any creative in Berlin, bookmark this and check regularly. Not only they have art/culture related job positions, but as well as they help you with your own projects and fund raising) (Another extremely good website for the creatives) (a mix of creative jobs) (highly professional design jobs) ( a mix of design jobs) (German LinkedIn, they like it!) (a mix of jobs, one of my favorite search engines) (good for the young people, offers a lot of internships) (speaks for itself) (a mix of jobs) (everything film related) (art jobs, internships, events and more)

Warner Brothers

I’ve done tons of free work in Berlin: photography, editing/reviews, PR etc. That gives you new experience, accreditation to the best festivals or concerts in Berlin, yet does not pay your rent. If you want to get paid, forget about any film festivals or even events like Transmediale. I was offered to be a runner for Warner Brothers, who had 2 day shooting in Berlin. My task would be – responsible for thousands euro worth equipment (ARRI) and serve the director, making sure he’s all happy in his chair, he can see the preview of the shot material and his coffee is always warm. 12h at least on a set each day, for €55,- ! When I pulled off, they were, to put it mildly, very disappointed. They would say later via e-mail, that with such attitude I will not get far in the film industry. Oh, what a shame, now I don’t have Warner Brothers on my CV, and I did not get €55. Besides, they called IT an INTERNSHIP, and never mentioned THE name of the company until I saw them in person. Two weeks later I’d be an extra in a student film, drinking beer in a bar, that’s all I had to do. 2h of shooting – €20. Found via Crew-United.

Speaking of extras, if you want to be an extra, and you’re desperate for money, register at: – they really send e-mails with offers. But be ready for 10h sitting and waiting and be in front of the camera for an hour max. Bring a book. You get free food and they also pay €55 (sometimes a bit more), but at least you’re not doing anything highly responsible; and it’s barely a job, if you read for 9h, it’s just boring to death, but I’ve done it. There are many more websites which look for extras, but I never really got any calls from them. Just make sure you do free photos in their photo studio; and then you’re in the active list.

The problem of Berlin – there are too many freelancers. Not that they want to be independent, they’re forced to, because the company would not sign a contract. And you end up paying your health insurance yourself, with up to €600/m and you have no pension scheme, or do you? Very cheeky. But even if you do some freelance work, make sure you sign some sort of freelance contract; otherwise you might not get paid.

Transmediale - the largest digital art festival in Europe, exploits theirs interns like slaves for €135/m.

Transmediale – the largest digital art festival in Europe, exploits theirs interns for €135/m.

viel Glück!

Typical Berlin. 1st of May. Drugs free zone - Goerli. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard.

Typical Berlin. 1st of May. Drugs free zone – Goerli. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard.

Here is my 2013 in retrospect. I do this yearly just to look back and see what new and exciting or maybe shocking and sad happened within the last 12 months.

Berlin is the most alive city I’ve ever lived in. Everyday something happens. I really should start making a diary like in old days, hand written, with scribbles and one day this can become a book.

Let’s see first, who’s been reading Avant-Hard:

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